Every month, Cincinnati Parent spotlights an organization in the area that’s affecting positive change. Bake Me Home, started by twin sisters Amy and Emma Bushman when they were 7 years-old, began in 2008 as a nonprofit organization providing cookie mixes and baking supplies to kids leaving the homeless shelter. It has grown since then with the girls expanding their efforts to others in the community.
Cincinnati Parent spoke with Amy, Emma and their mother Alison of Bake Me Home to hear their story of giving back:
What was the inspiration for creating Bake Me Home?
Emma: Because we’re twins, it was getting tricky at our birthday party with double the presents, so when we were four, we started collecting donations for a local homeless shelter instead. Afterwards, we would go to the shelter to drop everything off, and we would make a pancake breakfast for everybody. The specific shelter that we were at didn’t allow kids in the kitchen for safety reasons, but because we were volunteers we were allowed in. So, we would be in the kitchen having a great experience with our mom, and the kids in the shelter would stand right outside the door watching us. Amy and I didn’t understand why the kids couldn’t come and help us.
Alison: It was hard thinking that we’re trying to do this good thing for families in our community but that we may inadvertently be causing more harm than good. Were we accidentally sending the message that kids that don’t live in the shelter get to do things that they don’t get to do?
Amy: Then Emma and I went to a local cooking camp with the theme “Food as Gifts.” On the last day, we brought home a mason jar full of dry cookie mix ingredients, and we thought that was a cool idea. And then Emma and I saw a segment on TV about kids starting their own businesses. We thought, can kids really do this?
Bake Me Home started with a tote bag program giving cookie mixes and supplies to families leaving shelters and food pantries. What else are you involved in now?
Emma: In 2010 we started Bake Me Back Home, which is our program that serves military members in a variety of capacities. Originally, we started out just sending cookies overseas to military members. Recently we’ve expanded to also serve veterans getting treatment at The VA Medical Center staying at Fisher House. We’ve also expanded to provide the cookies on the Honor Flight Tristate lunches.
What does your organization need most right now?
Alison: Mostly what we need are donations. With more funding, we would be able to give out more tote bags, and we would be able to provide more volunteer sessions for all of the groups that want to come in and help us. Every tote bag that we give to a family costs us $25. We could double the number of tote bags we give away if we had the funding for it.
Was there a particular moment when you understood the impact of what you had created?
Alison: A mother of a 12-year-old girl with autism was given a tote bag at one of the food pantries that we serve. Our cookies have oatmeal in them, and the mother didn’t think her daughter would eat the cookies because of the oatmeal. But she came back and said that because her daughter was part of the process of baking the cookies, and that they did it together, she was willing to try them and she loved them. The mother was thrilled because it was giving her a new way to connect with her child, which is what Bake Me Home is all about. We’re not giving out snacks. We’re giving out opportunities for parents and kids to make memories together and to bond in the kitchen.
Interested in finding out more? Learn about Bake Me Home on their website at www.bakemehome.org.